A Mom's Guide To Istikhara - The Prayer of Guidance
Many times we are told by pious family and friends, to pray istikhara for the decisions we face in life, but we are not told much about the hows of Istikhara. I used to think istikhara was a prayer I must make only for major decisions in my life, or if I could not make up my mind about something paramount. I was not familiar with the actual essence of this powerful prayer, nor its valuable benefit to my conflicts. I did not realize that this prayer made me put my trust in Allah entirely, by asking Him to take over my affair and guide me to a decision that is best for me, in any area of my life.
It's sad to say, that we are not taught the basics of Istikhara from a young age, or what is the proper manner to perform it - which is surprisingly quite straightforward and easy. When I educated myself about istikhara, I regretted not using it more often and for most of my decisions in life, so that I was guided by the Best of Protectors, Allah (SWT) - and who can guide us better than the One who Created us!
What is Istikhara?
Istikhara is a sunnah prayer for seeking guidance from Allah regarding ALL matters in one's life. It is highly recommended in Islam, and our Prophet (saw) taught his companions to make istikhara regarding ALL of their affairs, particularly in significant decisions. It is seeking the right or the good thing for yourself to make the best choice possible. Understanding that we don't know everything, nor do we know all the facts about the choices we have, we suspend our judgment and leave the matter to Allah. We put our absolute trust in Him, and in this way, we direct ourselves to seek the best answer possible for one's worldly and religious life, often misunderstood by our limited intellect.
The istikhara prayer may be made for a particular matter or a general matter in hopes of seeking all that is best. Some scholars, recommend performing a general istikhara prayer for all that is good every day, ideally at the time of the Duha prayer (after sunrise). After that, one should be pleased with what Allah chooses for you and not seek to follow your whims after the answer to your istikhara becomes apparent. We ask Allah to give us this beneficial knowledge and the success to act upon it, in the way most beloved to Him, and following the example of His beloved Prophet (PBUH).
Misconceptions of Istikhara
1. Istikhara is only a prayer for marriage
Some believe istikhara is solely for the time when you intend to marry someone, but Istikhara is for seeking guidance in ALL matters of your life.
2. Istikhara is only performed by pious people
Some believe that as a sinner, they have to get someone pious to make istikhara for them, but istikhara can be performed irrespective of your state of piety.
3. Istikhara is only answered in a dream
Some believe that your answers from istikhara come in the form of dreams or seeing green or white, but your solution from istikhara will be a guidance from Allah towards that which is best for you.
4. Istikhara is only for really big things
Some believe that istikhara can only be carried out for major decisions in life like marriage, buying a house etc., but istikhara can be made for a particular matter, a general question or for all that is good every day.
5. Istikhara can only be performed when you pray
Some believe that you can only perform istikhara in a state of prayer or after salah, but if it is not possible to do the istikhara prayer, like when you are a traveler or in your menstrual period, you can simply read the istikhara dua on its own.
How to Perform Istikhara
The istikhara prayer is a very simple prayer of seeking guidance. You will be rewarded for completing it and receive Divine assistance towards the best decision for you to achieve greater success compared to deciding for yourself.
Step 1: Pray two sunnah rakats at any time that is not disliked
Step 2: If you are short of time, you can combine your istikhara prayer with another sunnah prayer
Step 3: After your prayer, recite the dua of istikhara
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلَا أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي
Allâhumma inni astakhiruka bi ilmika wa astaqdiruka biqudratika wa as’aluka min fadlikal-azimi, fa innaka taqdiru walâ aqdiru wa ta’lamu walâ a’lamu wa anta allamul ghuyubi. Allâhumma in kunta ta’lamu anna hâdhal amra khayrun li fi dini wa ma-ashi wa aqibati amri faqdir-hu li wa yassir-hu li thumma barik li fihi wa in kunta ta’lamu anna hâdhal amra sharrun li fi dini wa maâshi wa aqibati amri fasrifhu anni wasrifni anhu waqdir liyal-khayra haythu kâna thumma ardini.
O Allah, verily I seek the better [of either choice] from You, by Your knowledge, and I seek ability from You, by Your power, and I ask You from Your immense bounty. For indeed You have power, and I am powerless; You have knowledge and I know not; You are the Knower of the unseen realms. O Allah, if You know that this matter is good for me with regard to my religion, my livelihood and the end of my affair then decree it for me, facilitate it for me, and grant me blessing in it. And if You know that this matter is bad for me with regard to my religion, my livelihood and the end of my affair then turn it away from me and me from it; and decree for me better than it, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.
Step 4: You can say the dua of Istikhara if you cannot pray istikhara or you are in a state of menses
Step 5: It is best to recite istikhara before sleeping, though not necessary
Step 6: Like other dua, it is recommended to face the qibla
Step 7: It is recommended to open the dua of istikhara with praising Allah and sending blessings on the Prophet (PBUH), as well as closing off in this manner
Step 8: After that do not hasten in seeking the answer to your istikhara, the Prophet PBUH said,
Your prayers are answered, unless you hasten, saying, ‘I prayed, but no answer came.
How Do You Get Your Answer from Istikhara?
Imam al-Nawawi mentioned that before the istikhara prayer, you should seek advice from those whom you are confident in their knowledge, wisdom, and concern for you. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami mentioned that you should distance yourself from the desires of your egotistic inclinations. Shaykh Nuh Keller suggests that the more you pray istikhara, the clearer your answer will be and that you should pray it for all matters, even things you would not think of praying istikhara for.
You must avoid your judgment or inclination about the particular case, and wait for Allah to show you a sign or to make things happen in a way that indicates what you must do. If you are not clear about the result of the istikhara, it is recommended to repeat istikhara up to 7 times if necessary on separate occasions.
Your answer will not necessarily come to you in the form of a dream or even a 'feeling.' Rather, the solution from your istikhara prayer will be a guidance from Allah towards that which is khayr or best for you.
If you perform istikhara (the prayer of guidance) with the proper manners, you can suspend your wants and desires. Your intention is purely to consign the matter to Allah, then He SWT will make the events unfold in the direction that is the best for your worldly and your afterlife affairs inshAllah.
You can find more information and references about istikhara at Seekers Hub.